Richard Learoyd

Richard Learoyd’s color images are made with one of the most antiquarian of photographic processes: the camera obscura. Literally translated from Latin as “dark room,” Learoyd has created a room-sized camera in which the photographic paper is exposed. The subject—often a person, sometimes a still life—is in the adjacent room, separated by a lens. Light falling on the subject is directly focused onto the photographic paper without an interposing film negative. The result is an entirely grainless image. The overall sense of these larger-than-life images redefines the photographic illusion. Learoyd’s subjects, composed simply and directly, are described with the thinnest plane of focus, re-creating and exaggerating the way that the human eye perceives, and not without a small acknowledgement to Dutch Master painting.

Learoyd’s black-and-white gelatin silver contact prints are made using the negative/positive process invented roughly 170 years ago by Englishman W. H. Fox Talbot. Working with a large and portable camera obscura of his own construction, Learoyd has journeyed outside of his London studio, into the art-historically rich English countryside, producing images that have long been latent in his imagination. The negatives are up to 80 inches wide, resulting in the largest gelatin-silver contact prints ever made.

In September 2015, Aperture released Richard Learoyd: Day for Night, a comprehensive book of color portraits and studio work. In October 2015, The Victoria & Albert Museum in London will mount Dark Mirror, an exhibition of his large-scale portrait and still-life photographs, and The J. Paul Getty Museum will present a solo exhibition of Learoyd’s work in 2016.

His work is included in the collections of The Getty, Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum, Centre Pompidou, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Nelson-Atkins Museum, National Gallery of Canada, and Yale University Art Gallery, among others.

Nancy flowered dress, 2011, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
Agnes, July 2013 (1), 2013, gelatin-silver contact print
The river Stour from deadman’s bridge near Flatford. (Winter), 2013, gelatin-silver contact print
Harmony, 2011, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
For Cookham read Holt, 2013, gelatin-silver contact print
James back 2, 2011, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
A murder of magpies, 2013, gelatin-silver contact print
Jasmijn, July 2011, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
You and me, June 2010, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
Shade green gone, 2009, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
Empty oval, 2008, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
Tatiana nude, November 2012, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
Aviary, 2013, gelatin-silver contact print
I just couldn’t wait, 2014, camera obscura Ilfochrome photograph
Richard Learoyd's portable camera at Lacock Abbey.